What should be called from now on the Smite the Right! rally has come and gone. Now it is time to add up and pay the bills. Charlottesville is like the befuddled father of the bride when the last partiers have left, staring– checkbook open– at the final adjusted tally, and wondering if the indulgence was really worth the cost. On that one, it depends on who is asked.
The local liberal politicians are only now emerging from whatever safe zones they had retreated to in the last week when almost nothing was heard from any of these, otherwise, most voluble of people. With the tear gas and pepper spray dissipated, and the rough men gone, the resolutely silly Charlottesville City Council and their enablers are once again free to preen for the camera and with a heavy heart (but determination to do what is right), formulate even more effective policies to destroy the social and economic fabric of their town.
In all, they have to view the weekends’ events as well worthwhile, since it provided ample grist for the kind of shameless sermonizing, moral posturing, and virtue-signaling that put them in office and keeps them there. Local boy Thomas Jefferson famously remarked about slavery “As it is, we have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him nor safely let him go.” The same is true for Charlottesville politicians. One deviation from the orthodoxy of Resistance hyper sensibility that is their rationale for holding office, one nuance sniffed out by an always vigilant mob of enforcers and it is to the Tumbril for them. So fortuitously, the street cred that flows from having overseen a successful Smite the Right! is a marvelous political insurance policy that with luck could yield big future dividends.
The first cutting-edge local policy innovation resulting from Smite the Right! was promulgated as soon as Saturday evening no less. The police chief was granted the power, unilaterally, to “regulate, restrict or prohibit any assembly of persons, or the movement of persons or vehicles on any public street, sidewalk, right-of-way, park or other publicly-owned property as he deems necessary to protect the City of Charlottesville.” But don’t worry, notes the local daily “if he does, city officials will send a notice,” and I hasten to add—pass the buck.
The head cop deserves all the confidence shown by the City Council since on Saturday he seems to have followed dutifully the criticisms of police behavior at the KKK rally last month. The leftist mouthpieces were all in agreement—the cops had been too aggressive. Apparently in their haste to bum-rush the KKK out of town in July, some counter-demonstrator feathers were ruffled unduly. This time the cops were more restrained: “The police actually allowed us to square off against each other,” said Hawk Newsome, president of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York. “There were fights and the police were standing a block away the entire time. It’s almost as if they wanted us to fight each other.”
Speaking of great advances in law enforcement doctrine, the Council decided and the top cop supported, at the last minute, revoking a permit issued to the small-time local thug and blogger who “organized” Smite the Right! This permit authorized the rally to be held in what is becoming known here as “Emancipation Park Formerly Known as Lee Park.” Instead, the City Council mandated that the rally be moved to another park more than a mile and a half away. An emergency injunction reversed the city action and the “Emancipation Park Formerly Known as Lee Park” venue was reinstated. Despite the injunction, this cutting-edge strategic gambit required Charlottesville law enforcement agencies to divide their attention between two venues separated by busy traffic rather than being slaves to conventional wisdom and concentrating their forces on one. Whether subsequent perceived police reticence to engage was an accidental or a deliberate result of the decision to divide forces remains to be seen.
In general, Smite the Right! produced benefits for Democratic and Trumpo-Skeptic Republican politicians big and small. Governor Terry McAuliffe was given a stage to emote and fume about violent outside redneck interlopers which can’t do any harm to his 2020 presidential ambitions. Behind McAuliffe, the unctuously-earnest City Council member who rode Traveler shamelessly to Charlottesville notoriety managed to position himself behind the governor wearing a tee shirt which I expected to be spotted artfully with a little blood. But that must have been too over-the-top even for his media consultants. Meanwhile, the running account of the day produced by the local CBS affiliate memorializes tedious Tweet after tedious Tweet by pols scrambling to outdo each other with chest-thumping condemnations of “hate and violence.”
Politicians aside, it was a good time for Charlottesville’s plague of hyperactive not-for-profits, too. Depending on their inclinations, they got to pray publicly, ostentatiously turn their backs on the invading heathens, exchange insults or take up shields and clubs and pound and get pounded in turn by the opposition. UVA students, too, earned their Resistance bones and Instagrams the evening before by allowing themselves to be surrounded photogenically by a throng of young men who appeared to be dressed more for the golf course than terrorizing enlightened people with their raging hatred, racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and nativism.
Readers will note that comparatively little has been said thus far about the nominal right-wing extremist authors of the Charlottesville festivities on August 11th and 12th. The reason is that they were strictly bit players in the drama. To be sure they were as essential as extras always are when large numbers of savages or zombies need to be dispatched on screen by the hero to confirm his heroic stature. But no attention whatsoever will be devoted by anyone to look beyond all the threatening images, rote rationales, fractured history and bursting resentment to those “root causes” that the left otherwise is so eager to understand and acknowledge. Not for these people; never; no time; no how. Instead, the enlightened demand that they put aside their false consciousness or be consigned to oblivion. Some of the more literary-minded of them may shout back their “And how can man die better than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods?” or sentiments to that effect, but those whose cultural vandalism actually summoned them to town will never listen. As it is they certainly did their part, offering themselves up gamely to permit aggressive leftist street-fighters, in fact, and prattling liberal preachers, geeks, and biddies, figuratively, to all “Smite the Right!”
And yes, finally there is the 32-year-old citizen of Charlottesville struck down and killed by a car that seems to have been deliberately steered at a crowd of counter-demonstrators. Two state troopers also died in a rally-related helicopter crash. There were 19 people injured badly enough to be brought to UVA Medical Center. There are also the lost revenues and wages to be tallied, not to mention the damage done to Charlottesville’s reputation, which right now is fraying only in the region, but this weekend could extend that deterioration more widely.
All collateral damage, regrettable, but necessary, the agents of Charlottesville’s Resistance to Reality and Reason would admit privately. Besides, they have the cops and municipal workers, the captive local businessmen and taxpayers, and all those eager UVA parents to clean up the messes and pay the bills.
As the Mayor of Charlottesville says, and he is right—they got this: “We will emerge — I can promise you — stronger than ever.” Too bad.